freelance writing

Flashback: Rubber Band Ball article reprinted in Utne Reader

img_2309.jpg

I recently discovered that my article on rubber band balls can be found on theĀ  Utne Reader website. You can read “Rubber Band Balls: The Ultimate Collector’s Item” here.

img_2305.jpg

The article was first published under the title “The Joy of Rubber Balling” in my music fanzine Mole, issue #12, back in May 1999. It describes my obsession with creating and maintaining a rubber band ball. On the next page, I interviewed my friend David Craig about his own experiences creating a rubber band ball (see below). As with a lot of things, he got in on the trend first. The “director’s cut” version appears on my website here.

utne-banderama

Needless to say, I was rather shocked when Utne Reader picked the article up for reprinting, which they did under the title “Bandarama” (Utne Reader #101, Sept-Oct 2000). Especially nice: getting paid for the piece. In some way, a paycheck helped justify all the wasted time putting together a fanzine. Not to mention the time wasted assembling a giant rubber band ball. (Coincidentally, I found the images of the Utne cover and the my article in an Ebay listing; strange that “Bandarama” was one of the sample pages!)

One of the major differences between the two printings was the title, and the omission of my subtitle. The more professional rag seemed not to like the vague innuendo contained in my version. It’s funny that for their website, they changed the title again.

Yes, you do see Vanilla Ice’s name in the lower left corner of the Mole cover. I interviewed him about an outsider art site in Homestead, Florida, called the Coral Castle. It featured in a promotional photo his record company provided with his comeback CD. Turns out, he was quite an authority on the place. But that’s another post.

IMG_2306

I still have that rubber band ball today, although I’m not as diligent about maintaining it. It’s gotten pretty furry with neglect, so I’ve been doing some serious re-surfacing with fresh rubber. It could still use a lot more bands. At this point the ball weighs 7 lbs 11 oz.

Flashback: Article on the Bride of Frankenstein’s singing career in Cool and Strange Music magazine

bride-sings

That time my article on Elsa Lanchester’s Bawdy Cockney Songs LPs appeared in Cool and Strange Music #28. You know Ms. Lanchester best as the titular star of Bride of Frankenstein, James Whale’s 1935 horror masterpiece.

Later in her career, she took up a kind of cabaret act where she sang silly ditties full of innuendo and double entendres. Many songs from this act ended up on two LPs, originally titled “Songs for a Shuttered Parlor” and “Songs for a Smoke Filled Room.” (Reissued as “Bawdy Cockney Songs” and, naturally, “More Bawdy Cockney Songs.”) Both are great examples of weird and strange thrift store scores.

Cool and Strange Music no longer has an online presence, but you can read the “director’s cut” of the article in my own archive here.

lanchester-LP

c&smusic28

Famous Noise Band Steals One of My Stories

In 2007, well-known harsh noise group Macronympha released a 7″ single on the Hospital Productions record label, called “Sex and Death.” There are two tracks, “Pussy Is My Soul” and “The Doom Pussy (Is Coming).” Both titles were taken from my story “Jaws of the Doom Pussy,” which was published in Malefact magazine, issue #4, back in 1997. The record includes an insert that has selections from the story cut out and pasted back together.

Just about everything in that paragraph is so obscure it requires a footnote, so allow me to explain.

I discovered the existence of this record last night while listening to a private press LP by one of my favorite “noise” artists, Runzelstirn and Gurglestock. While the demented piano playing and raucous cries spilled from the speakers, I decided to check the band’s discography on Discogs.com. Each time I added an R&G release to my wantlist, a line of “recommendations” appeared at the bottom of the screen. One of these was the Macronympha single, bearing intriguingly disturbing cover art. I clicked in to the release page for a closer look; there I saw the track listing. How could someone else come up with a line like “The Doom Pussy is Coming”? It was too close to my own work to be a coincidence.

Under “More Images, every part of the record is documented: front and back covers, record label, and two inserts. The final two pictures show an insert filled with solid blocks of words.On closer inspection, I recognized the text instantly. One of the musicians had collaged elements of the story from Malefact, creating a variation on the original. In fact, all the images on the jacket art could serve as illustrations for the narrative.

Macronympha has a long discography, having been active since the early 1990s, and is well-known in the harsh noise scene. This particular recording features original members Joe Roemer and Rodger Stella joined by Hospital Productions label boss Dominick Fernow . Fernow himself is a huge presence in the noise underworld, recording power electronics as Prurient and black metal as Vatican Shadow. I once saw Prurient on a bill with Wolf Eyes and Whitehouse. It was a great night for intense music and bleeding ears.

Given what I know of Fernow’s aesthetic interests (and those of Macronympha’s other members, as well), it makes sense the Doom Pussy story would have resonated with them, and that they would have seen Malefact. One of the best fanzines ever to come out of the Washington, DC, area, it mostly featured extreme, transgressive art with psychosexual, satanic, and psychedelic themes, often beautifully drawn by its editor, Tom Crites. Crites was also a huge fan of extreme music, including noise and black metal, and I can imagine he made contacts in those scenes. After I discovered Malefact, I wrote a short piece about it for The Washington City Paper (“Bureau of Smut,” 2/14/97); that’s when I met Tom and his domestic and publishing partner Sandy Smiroldo. Tom graciously allowed me to publish some of his graphics in my own fanzine, Mole. (Digression: I notice I spelled “Cthulhu” incorrectly in the article, and the WCP editors didn’t correct it!)

In The Headpress Guide to the Counterculture (2004, Manchester, UK), David Kerekes said this about Malefact 3 & 4: “One of the more pleasing art showcases, Malefact is a kind of Raw for the terminally apocalyptic. Running down the list of contributors ought to give clear indication of the type of subject matter on offer here: Miguel Angel Martin, Mike Diana, Nick Bougas, Trevor Brown, Sverre Kristensen, to name but a few. And if it still isn’t clear, how about serial killers on the job, huge ejaculating schlongs, and torture? Some of it is in comic strip, some of it big and bulbous full-page splashes. The artists in No. 4 have an even greater obsession with cartoon shit cakes.” (For the record, there is no reference to defecation in “Jaws of the Doom Pussy.”)

Somewhere along the line, I toldĀ  Tom and Sandy about the series of texts I had been working on featuring the Doom Pussy, a kind of warrior goddess at war with mankind; her weapons of choice were earthquakes triggered by bombs from a helicopter. They agreed the words would fit in well with the images in the zine. The stories are characterized by extreme sexuality, violence, magical practice, a performative writing style, and experimental techniques and structures. Easily the most intense writing I’ve produced, these texts have so far only seen light of day three times, all in long-defunct DC-based publications: two in a literary journal called Spoonfed, and once in Malefact. At the moment, I’m editing an anthology of all 19 Doom Pussy stories, potentially to be published later this year. It’s 275 pages of dense, eye-watering writing.

It seems appropriate that Macronympha would attach my words to their music and imagery. I don’t have a problem with it at all. It’s really a badge of honor. I just wish they had given me credit and sent me a copy of the record.